Public Health Student Helping with CSUSM’s Pandemic Response

Zach Nortz enrolled in CSUSM’s Master of Public Health program last fall, only a few months after losing his job because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Andrew Reed

March 16, 2021
By Brian Hiro

The coronavirus pandemic struck Zachary Nortz swiftly and without a care last spring.

One month, Nortz was working for an auto parts distribution business in Rancho Bernardo. The next month, he joined the legions of Americans in unemployment as the burgeoning pandemic cut a devastating swath through the U.S. economy.

He found himself suddenly biding his time at home with his wife, Rachel, a speech-language pathology lecturer at Cal State San Marcos now teaching remotely, and his infant daughter, August, whose daycare facility was shut down because of COVID-19.

“It was very difficult to deal with an abrupt situation,” Nortz said. “But I felt like, with a long-term career, if it wasn’t going to be something I was already used to, I wanted it to be new and exciting and something that would be helpful to other people.”

Nortz had always been interested in public health, and what better chance than during a pandemic to scratch that itch? After a 13-year break since he graduated from San Diego State, he returned to higher education last fall as a student in CSUSM’s Master of Public Health program.

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